We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Stevedore?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
PublicPeople is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At PublicPeople, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A stevedore is someone who loads and unloads ships, typically working in a team to ensure that the process is smooth and efficient. People who do this job are iconic figures in many cultures, thanks to their extreme strength and infamously impolite mouths; historically, they were known for having quite salty language, just like sailors. They have also played a vital role in the labor movement in many parts of the world, and today, stevedores tend to be members of unions, ensuring that they receive reasonable rates of pay and protection from grueling hours and dangerous conditions.

People have used this term to describe someone who handles the loading and unloading of ships since the 1700s. It comes from the Spanish estibador, which is derived from estibar, “to stow,” a word that in turn originates in the Latin word stipare, “to pack.” The usage of the word undoubtedly spread through sailors, who are famous for bringing snippets of foreign language around the world with them.

In addition to being referred to as a stevedore, these dock workers are also known as longshoremen or dockers, depending on regional preference. “Longshoreman” is especially common in North America, and is probably derived from “man along the shore,” a very apt description of someone who does this job on a continent where many ships are unloaded offshore and onto small boats to ensure that their goods reached small communities.

By tradition, stevedores are hired by the day, as needed, although some ports maintain a permanent dock staff. Brute strength isn't the only trait the person possesses, although it is important. In addition to being strong, the individual must also be very familiar with ships, as he or she needs to know the best way to stow a wide variety of cargo items. Historically, this was extremely difficult, thanks to the use of varied packing containers; now that most cargo goes by container, this part of the job is a little less challenging.

Stevedores also have to be able to handle dock equipment, such as cranes and forklifts, safely and efficiently, and they need to be very aware of emerging safety issues, including hazardous materials on board the ship and around the docks. They are often encouraged to look out for each other on the docks, where conditions can change rapidly, and they have carried this fellowship with them in the tradition of unionization. Someone who wishes to join the union as a stevedore must generally exhibit the basic necessary skills before he or she will be accepted, and in some ports, a person cannot get work without a union card, making membership critical.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Dec 11, 2012

@bythewell - It was also very dangerous work. I think it basically still is, although now they mostly use machines to move the crates. Back then it was all winches and pulleys and if something failed, because of a lack of funds, or care, then people would die, or be maimed. And, of course, there was no insurance, so they would be reduced to begging.

By bythewell — On Dec 11, 2012

I actually saw an exhibit the other day on a revolution that occurred because of stevedores. They were working in atrocious conditions and were being paid a pittance and in the end they decided to have a stevedore strike. When you think about it, it's a situation ripe for unions to form, because it's a relatively skilled profession in that you need to know what you're doing, but you can use uneducated workers who might not know how much money they should be paid.

And the workers are all going to be big, brawny men (at least back in the day) who aren't going to easily give in to intimidation (or be pleased at any attempt at it).

So I can well believe that they banded together to form unions and improve their working conditions.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
PublicPeople, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

PublicPeople, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.